Just last month, the U.S. heard about a push to increase STEM education in this country by President Obama.
A handful of East Valley school districts already offer programs designed around different aspects of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). From the biomedical program at Gilbert’s Campo Verde High School to the BioTech Academy at Mesa High School, students have options to explore their interests in these fields.
Now, two East Valley high schools are signing on to be part of a new state diploma for STEM: Mesa’s Red Mountain and Gilbert’s Highland.
The STEM diploma would fall under the Grand Canyon Diploma created by lawmakers in 2010.
Under the Grand Canyon Diploma, students take advanced level core courses their first two years then prove their knowledge by passing an exam, such as the Cambridge International Board exam or the ACT QualityCore board, to show they’re ready for college.
If they pass, they can graduate and move into community college courses at their high school, take higher level courses such as Advanced Placement, or enroll in career training.
The STEM diploma gives them another option — to enroll in advance level science, technology, engineering and math classes.
Both Highland and Red Mountain are looking to start with a small group of freshmen in the fall — about 30 kids at each school. About 20 parents and their children already participated in an informational meeting at Highland.
During the first two years of high school, the students will take advanced courses in the core subjects, including math, science, English and history, and electives. After that point, they will take a state-approved exam (such as the Cambridge International Board Exam) in each subject to prove their knowledge, as outlined by the Grand Canyon Diploma.
Summers will be filled with field experiences and internships in an area of interest.
The final two years will continue with higher-level classes, such as Advanced Placement English, calculus, statistics and sciences, as well as STEM electives.
“Here we can design a program around the individual student that focuses on STEM,” said Red Mountain assistant principal Patrick Walsh.
Biomedical, biotechnology, robotics and engineering courses are already offered at Red Mountain — so students may then take advanced courses like those already on campus, Walsh said.
Chandler Unified School District’s Perry High School is launching its own STEM diploma in the fall. Like the programs going into Red Mountain and Highland high schools, the students will participate in hands-on learning during their summers to continue their education.
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